What is foreplay?

Foreplay is anything that people do before sexual intercourse, to stimulate their partners and themselves. Sometimes, foreplay is not just a starter but the whole act, leading to orgasm. But what are the most common types of foreplay? Some people prefer emotional foreplay, while others stick to physically intimate acts. The purpose of foreplay is to create sexual arousal for sex. However, it can also be the main event. The most common types of foreplay are the following:

  • kissing
  • sexual talking
  • sexual touching
  • frottage
  • removing clothing
  • oral sex
  • watching a pornographic movie
  • fetish
  • sexual bondage
  • blindfolding
  • sploshing 
  • sexual games
  • role-playing
  • sex toys

But how safe is it, and what sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can you get?

The importance of foreplay

Foreplay is essential for most people. Its value is both physiological and physical. 

Physiological importance

Physiologically speaking, foreplay in between partners leads to emotional intimacy, making the bonds in a relationship stronger. In people who have casual sex with strangers, foreplay seems to decrease inhibitions related to feelings of shyness. Finally, foreplay might lower the levels of sex-related stress. Some types of foreplay, such as kissing, leads to a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, and the increase in other hormones, such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. 

Physical importance

Physically speaking, foreplay increases sexual arousal. As a result, your heart rate gets quicker, and your blood vessels dilate. When that happens in your genitals, they receive more blood, equaling erection in men and lubrication of the vagina in women. 

Can you get oral gonorrhea through kissing?

Is foreplay safe?

Although foreplay is safer than unprotective penetrative sex, it could also pose some dangers regarding your health. Some STDs do not need penetration to spread, but they are transmissible through skin-to-skin or contaminated objects. 

Types of STDs that could spread through foreplay

Some STDs do not require penetrative sex to transmit. For instance, human papillomavirus (HPV) spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, types of foreplay that include skin-touching are not risk-free. Another example of an STD that can spread through foreplay is herpes. Herpes virus is transmissible through frottage (rubbing of the genitals), kissing, oral sex, and sex toys. Finally, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, HPV, HIV, and trichomoniasis are all transmissible through oral sex. Except for viral STDs that are more likely to spread during non-penetrative sex, bacterial STDs such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are just as much possible to spread through foreplay. However, for some, the risk is not very high.


Types of foreplay that could spread an STD

Oral sex is sometimes a high-risk type of foreplay that could result in an STD. When a person has oral chlamydia and performs oral sex to you, you are at a high risk of getting genital chlamydia. The same stands for gonorrhea too. However, the risk increases when you perform oral sex to an individual with the infection. Syphilis is transmissible through its initial sign, a small ulcer that an individual can develop anywhere in the genitals, anus, lips, or mouth. When you receive or perform oral sex to a person with syphilis, you might get it too. 

Herpes and HPV are both transmissible through skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, they spread through oral sex, frottage, kissing, sex toys, and, potentially, fingering. There is more evidence to support that HPV might survive under the nails of people, transmitting it to themselves while masturbating, or to others while fingering.  

You might get HIV from oral sex, but the chances are generally quite low. The transmission of the virus depends on the viral load of the infected individual. Although very few reported cases showed potential transmission of HIV through oral sex, the risk still exists. 

I got sperm in my face, do I need to get tested?

Quick facts about oral sex and the risk of STDs

  • Getting an STD by giving oral sex to a person with a genital STD is possible. The chances are higher when giving oral to an infected male partner.
  • Getting oral sex from a person with an infected throat, especially if you are a man, can result in an STD. 
  • Having an STD in your genital area and mouth or throat at the same time is possible.

Finally, not using condoms while using sex toys increase your risk of getting an STD significantly. Some examples of STDs you can get through sharing sex toys are the following:

  • chlamydia
  • syphilis
  • herpes

Safe types of foreplay

Generally speaking, foreplay techniques that do not skin-to-skin, skin-to-genitals, and mouth-to-genitals contact are safe. Also, carefully practicing foreplay also protects you from STDs. For instance, applying a condom on your sex toys or properly washing them and cleaning them prevents you from getting or spreading an infection. 

Sexual talking

Sexual talking is a type of foreplay that many people enjoy. It includes sexually talking to your partner to arouse them. Sexual talking, including sexting, is a safe type of foreplay that cannot spread STDs.

Removing clothing

Clothes removal is another popular type of foreplay that includes sexually removing the clothes of your partner. It could also take the form of a striptease. Both are safe, and there is no STD-related risk.

Watching a pornographic movie

Watching pornography as part of sexual arousal is a safe type of foreplay that some people prefer. Since it doesn't involve contact, it cannot spread STDs.

Can I get an STD from someone else's bed/sharing towels?


Fetish, as long as it doesn't involve the genitals, is a safe foreplay type. It may include an object, an item of clothing, or a part of the body. The target of interest that creates sexual arousal is the fetish. 

Sexual bondage

Sexual bondage involves consensual tying an individual or retraining them for sexual arousal. It is a subculture of BDSM and might provide sexual arousal to the recipient or the donor. Sexual bondage does not carry any risk of STDs transmission. 


Blindfolding involves covering the eyes of an individual to achieve sexual arousal. It is a safe and popular type of foreplay. 


Sploshing, or wet and messy fetish, is a type of foreplay that some people practice for sexual arousal. You cannot get or spread an STD through practicing it.


Role-playing involves making up a scenario to sexually arouse your partner. Role-playing is generally safe and does not carry any STD risks.